Skip to main content

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder is a brain-related disorder that causes problems in the development of social interaction and communication skills. It can also include repetitive or rigid behaviours that impact play and daily living skills. There are lots of differences across individuals, which is why it has the word “spectrum” in the name. Also, some children with this disorder have difficulty learning. Some show signs of ASD in early infancy, but others seem to develop normally for the first few years of life, and then suddenly become withdrawn, act out, and/or lose language skills. Usually there are signs by age two.

If you’re worried about ASD, it’s important to know two things.

First, while there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, early treatment can make a big difference. And early treatment starts with early identification and diagnosis.

And second, despite what some people say, childhood vaccines do NOT cause autism. No reliable study has ever shown a link.

 

What is normal?

All babies develop at their own pace, and many don't exactly follow the timelines as they’re described in parenting books. Many kids, at various times during their development, might show some of the signs associated with autism. But having a few autism-like symptoms doesn’t mean your son or daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is diagnosed based on multiple symptoms that disrupt a child’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play, and learn.

 

What are common signs and symptoms?

The most common signs shown by people who have ASD are related to social behaviour, speech and language, and restricted behaviour.

 

Possible signs of autism in babies and toddlers:

  • By 6 months, no social smiles or other warm, joyful expressions directed at people
  • By 6 months, limited or no eye contact
  • By 9 months, no sharing of vocal sounds, smiles or other nonverbal communication
  • By 12 months, no babbling
  • By 12 months, no use of gestures to communicate (e.g. pointing, reaching, waving etc.)
  • By 12 months, no response to name when called
  • By 16 months, no words
  • By 24 months, no meaningful, two-word phrases
  • Any loss of any previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills

 

Possible signs of autism at any age:

  • Avoids eye contact and prefers to be alone
  • Struggles with understanding other people’s feelings
  • Remains nonverbal or has delayed language development
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Gets upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Has highly-restricted interests
  • Performs repetitive behaviours such as flapping, rocking or spinning
  • Has unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colours

 

For young children, an ASD diagnosis can take some time after the first symptoms of ASD are noticed. This is due in large part because young children are all so different in the way they behave and develop. Clinicians revisit these children for a period to see what are typical differences and what are likely due to ASD.

 

Should I seek help?

Signs of autism spectrum disorder often appear early in development when there are obvious delays in language skills and social interactions. If you're concerned about your child's development, discuss it with your doctor, speech language pathologist, or local mental health professional. He or she may recommend tests to identify if your child has delays in cognitive, language, and social skills. Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder is not an easy or quick process. In order to accurately pinpoint your child’s problem, it may take multiple evaluations and tests as well as listening and learning from parents and caregivers.

20 Program(s)

IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program

IWK
This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

The IWK Mental Health and  Addictions Program provides specialized care throughout the province for children and youth up until their 19th birthday within a patient and family...

More Information:

Children / Youth

Canadian Mental Health Association - Colchester East Hants Branch

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Colchester East Hants Branch provides public education, advocacy, and a resource center to support the resiliency and recovery of...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors

Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Canadian Mental Health Associations in Nova Scotia are the oldest community-based mental health and addictions charitable organizations in the province, founded in 1908. The...

More Information:

/
Adults / Seniors

Hope for Wellness HelpLine

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

The Hope for Wellness HelpLine offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Experienced and culturally competent...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors / Youth
First Nations, Indigenous

Eskasoni Mental Health

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors / Youth
First Nations, Indigenous

Caregivers Nova Scotia

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.

More Information:

Adults / Seniors
Caregiver, Family

Autism Nova Scotia

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Autism Nova Scotia is a non-for-profit organization that strives to build community capacity to enhance understanding, acceptance, and inclusion of families and individuals...

More Information:

Adults / Children / Youth

211

211
This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.

More Information:

Adults / Children / Seniors / Youth

Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors
Canadian Forces, RCMP

Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance Service

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors
Canadian Forces, RCMP

Health Psychology

Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.

More Information:

Adults

Community Outreach Assessment Support and Treatment Team (COAST) - Dual Diagnosis Program (Intellectual Disability in combination with Mental Illness)

The community outreach assessment support and treatment team provides services for persons with both intellectual disability and also mental illness. These services include:

...

More Information:

Adults

School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)

The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...

More Information:

Children / Youth

Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line

The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.

...

More Information:

Adults / Children / Seniors / Youth

First Nations Services

Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...

More Information:

Adults / Children / Seniors / Youth
First Nations, Indigenous

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) - Autism Intervention Program

The Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) program provides direct intensive service to young children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The...

More Information:

Children

Autism Program

The Autism Program provides assessment for preschoolers and school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It also offers a range of services for families.

The...

More Information:

Children

Crossroads Clubhouse

Crossroads Cape Breton is community organized to support people living with mental illness in reclaiming and enhancing their lives. People are referred to as “members” because...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors

Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services

Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...

More Information:

Adults / Seniors

Child and Adolescent Services

Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...

More Information:

Children / Youth

811 LogoIKW Logo211 Logo